How many types of wasps are there?

Written by yasmin zinni
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How many types of wasps are there?
Wasps species are part of the order Hymenoptera. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Wasps are insects, part of the Order Hymenoptera, which also includes ants and bees. Wasps can differ in size, body structure and diet, among other features. They go through several stages of development, including larvae, before becoming adults. Most wasps are classified as symphyta wasps, true parasitic wasps, stinging parasitic wasps and predatory wasps. The number of known wasp species is larger than 100,000.

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Sawflies, Horntails and Wood Wasps

The suborder Symphyta has about 8,200 species, and includes sawflies, horntails and wood wasps. These wasps are plant feeders as larvae, except the parasitic wood wasp (family Orussidae), which lays its eggs in tree trunks and feeds on beetle larvae. Wood wasps are abundant in Southern California. Sawflies, horntails and wood wasps feature a broadly attached abdomen and complex wing veins.

True Parasitic Wasps

True parasitic wasps are a large group, with 76,000 species. Their main feature is a specialised long ovipositor, which is used to insert eggs into or onto a host without moving it to the nest. Wasps from the family Braconidae lay eggs into caterpillars, are considered important agriculture pest controllers, and thus helpful to humans.

Stinging Parasitic Wasps

Stinging parasitic wasps or stinging parasitoids number 13,600 species. They use the ovipositor, which is linked to poison glands, to sting their host, which is later moved to the nest. Then, the eggs are laid on the host from another organ, located in the abdomen. The young larvae feed on the carcase as soon as they emerge.

Predatory Wasps

This group includes more than 17,000 species of wasps that hunt other insects for food, but also eat nectar and pollen. These are often solitary wasps, such as the family Pompilidae or spider wasp, and also includes the genera Anoplius, Bembix and Oxybelius. Most predatory wasps lay a single egg into plant stems or directly into the soil. Male predatory wasps are often smaller than females.

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